Here's how one educator (RARB alumnus Brock Harris) has used a cappella and RARB reviews as teaching aids in the past (reprinted with permission). (Brock wrote this before he became a RARB reviewer.)
I was going to reply at some length for posting on the newsgroup, but
I'll fill you in now. I teach vocal music at Burbank High School. I
have about 200 kids in three different choirs and four ensembles. I'm
just out of school, USC, a college a cappella veteran. Anyway, my
choirs do a lot of "non-traditional" choir arrangements, as you can
probably imagine, and I'm also a big advocate of the recording
experience as a peak time for choral improvement and focus.
That being the case, I use a lot of recordings in class as examples
and models. The BOCA albums and Off the Beat mostly fill the bill. In
the case of No Static, for example, I brought in the album to my
advanced mixed choir, and we listened to it for about 40 minutes -
clips, repeats, almost every song. Of course they get a huge kick out
of it, and the motivation alone would be reason enough to listen.
This is going to be the gist of my thesis, how to use recordings in a
classroom, particularly how contemporary a cappella can serve as a
model of proper vocal production. There are a few more angles on the
thesis that I'm looking at, and when I figure it out exactly I'll drop
you guys a line.
Anyway, once my choirs and ensembles were beginning to make their own
recordings (just this year), I thought the RARB reviews would validate
what I preach everyday (great for them to hear it from another
source. Basically I print out the reviews in full, including scores,
photocopy double sided, then hand them out. We listen to the albums
then read the all the reviews in class. Sometimes, if I don't have the
album, I'll print out some reviews that talk about what I want them to
hear, usually energy and passion in the studio, a big problem with
young singers (or any singers!).
There are a few things I've noticed already: having kids write their
own reviews, even in brief note form, BEFORE reading the RARB reviews,
makes them listen a lot more closely. Playing a handful of full-length
songs, instead of a bunch of clips, seems to be more satisfying to the
students. Mostly, the RARB reviews turn the kids into critical
listeners, a key step in achieving quality recordings and
performances. It's hard to get them to listen critically to the Mormon
Tabernacle choir to teach good vocal production, but for obvious
reasons Off the Beat doing Jewel is fantastically engaging.
So keep up the good work. There are 200 of us in Burbank who reap huge
benefits from the work of you and your reviewers.